World Medical Association backs conscience freedoms for pro-life medics

An international medical ethics body has supported the right of physicians with conscientious objections not to refer patients for procedures such as abortions or assisted suicide.

Following a three-year process, the World Medical Association’s General Assembly unanimously approved an update to the International Code of Medical Ethics, which is regarded as “the foundation of ethical principles for physicians worldwide”.

The updated code now acknowledges “on some issues there are profound moral dilemmas concerning which physicians and patients may hold deeply considered but conflicting conscientious beliefs”.


It states: “Physician conscientious objection to provision of any lawful medical interventions may only be exercised if the individual patient is not harmed or discriminated against and if the patient’s health is not endangered.

“The physician must immediately and respectfully inform the patient of this objection and of the patient’s right to consult another qualified physician and provide sufficient information to enable the patient to initiate such a consultation in a timely manner.”

Conscience rights protect medical professionals and conscience rights protect you.

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said the World Medical Association’s advice “underlines the importance of continuing the fight to protect the conscience rights of medical professionals”.

He added: “If you are experiencing a difficult medical condition you may become very depressed and ask for something that you would never otherwise request. You need a physician who is free to protect you at the lowest time of your life. Conscience rights protect medical professionals and conscience rights protect you.”


In Britain, the Abortion Act 1967 includes a conscientious objection clause allowing doctors and nurses to refuse to participate in abortions.

In 2013, The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that two Roman Catholic midwives’ conscientious objection to abortions meant they had the right to refuse to delegate, supervise or support staff involved in abortions. But the UK Supreme Court overturned the decision the next year following an appeal.

In 2017, the General Pharmaceutical Council backtracked on proposals which could have forced pharmacists to issue abortion drugs against their will. The Christian Institute had threatened a judicial review, saying its plans were unclear and a breach of human rights.

Also see:

Canada: Medical body wants euthanasia for newborns

Ohio enacts conscience clause to protect medics

MPs demand abortion be made a human right

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